Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meyer Lemon And Mascarpone Tart In A Whole Wheat Pâte Sucré

"Eat dessert first," George always said. "Life's too @#!*%ing short!"

So I'll begin my summer posting with dessert and a recipe inspired by and adapted from my regional French cooking guru, Chef Alex Begovic, executive chef of the posh and rather exclusive Ingomar Club in the Carson Mansion.

I love Chef Alex's approach to food and teaching: Simple, fresh, organic, local whenever possible, a little cooking lore thrown in with a bit of opinion, and the ingredients messed with as little as possible to get the best results. I don't know if he would agree with that sentence, but it's how I see him. It's also why I enjoy taking his classes.

This creamy lemon filling (recipe below) made with my beloved Meyer lemons is a perfect accompaniment to fresh organic berries, and really you could stop right there and bring it to the table.
But make a pâte sucré with whole wheat pastry flour,

spread with mascarpone cheese,

topped with Meyer lemon filling and a ring of raspberries, and you've just outdone yourself.

Ta da!

Meyer Lemon and Mascarpone Tart with Raspberries
Lemon filling recipe adapted from Chef Alex Begovic, pâte sucré recipe adapted from Food Network (yes, I actually go there once in a while). Inspiration, my own.

Whole Wheat Pâte Sucré
(pronounced paht soo-cray, equally accented syllables, it means sugared dough)
Makes one blind-baked pie shell
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons Splenda Sugar Blend (can use 2 tablespoons sugar if preferred)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sweet butter cut into small pieces, keep cold
2 tablespoons cream or half 'n half
(1 cup mascarpone cheese for later. See instructions below.)
Combine the flours and sugar and place in a food processor. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse a few times until mixture is like coarse bread crumbs.
Add the egg and the cream and pulse until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. You may have to add a bit more cream, depending on the type of flour you're using. The dough can look a bit ragged at this point.
Gather the dough together in waxed paper to form a ball, then gently press it into a circle. Put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour. At this point, the dough can be in the fridge overnight (well wrapped) to be used the following day if desired.
To bake, using a well-floured rolling pin, roll the dough out on a floured board to about 1/8-inch thickness. Place it in a tart pan (removable bottom optional), gently patting and manipulating until it fits snugly into the pan, trim the edges even with the top edge and prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork.
Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper cut a bit larger than the tart pan, then fill with pie weights or beans.
Bake for about 20 minutes in a 375-degree oven or until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the pie weights and the parchment and allow the shell to cool completely on a wire rack.
When cooled, spread the mascarpone cheese over the bottom of the crust. Refrigerate while making the filling.

Meyer Lemon Filling
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
4 eggs
3 tablespoons Splenda Sugar Blend (or 6 tablespoons sugar)
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
lemon zest from 1 lemon
Place the eggs and sugar into a heavy saucepan, preferrably stainless steel, and beat with a hand mixer or whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and has thickened.
Whisk in the lemon juice and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture reaches a simmer and thickens to the consistency of pudding.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon zest, whisking a bit longer to help the cooling process.
Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge until all the heat has been released.
Putting it Together:
Remove the mascarpone-filled pie shell from the fridge and pour the cooled lemon filling into it, spreading it smoothly to the edges.
Garnish with berries and take to the table so your friends and family can make all the appropriately appreciative murmurings before you begin to slice and serve.

Cook's Notes:
I hope it's obvious that you must prepare the different components of this dessert allowing enough time for everything to cool sufficiently. Pouring hot, or even warm, lemon filling over the mascarpone will result in a melted mess. Please don't do that.
Could you make the pie shell using just all-purpose flour? Of course you could. But this recipe works well with the whole wheat flour added, which adds fiber, which is healthier for you, so why not?

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Mr CC and Me

24 years today

And going strong

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, June 6, 2008

Barley Chevre Pilaf With Basil And Tomatoes

Barley. Organically grown, hull-less, red winter barley. Grown about 12 miles from my kitchen, it cooks up into sturdy, fat, chewy (not gooey), delicious kernels of high-fiber goodness. I'm very excited about this. Due to the "gooey" factor, I'd not been overly fond of barley in the past. But that's all changed. These nutty, brown grains are highly addictive and I admit to being hooked. And then, of course, there's the fact that whole grains are really good for you and barley is a noted World's Healthiest Food.
So here is my barley offering, the first of many, made sometime during the past month when I was on hiatus. Do give yourself plenty of time to soak the grains before beginning the recipe.

Barley Chevre Pilaf with Basil and Tomatoes
Christine's original recipe

1 cup uncooked hull-less, winter barley (preferrably organically grown)
water for soaking
2 1/2 cups water for cooking
2 tablespoons roasted walnut oil
1 tablespoon golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil (green and purple)
2 ounces good chevre
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
Campari tomatoes

Put the uncooked barley into a large metal pot and cover with cold water. Give it a stir and skim off any hulls that float to the top. (It's called hull-less, but there will be a few strays that managed to stick around.)
Let the barley soak for about 8 hours then rinse well.
Return barley to the rinsed pot, cover with 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil on high heat.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the water has been absorbed and the barley is just tender and chewy, about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir to separate the grains and pour into a ceramic bowl or casserole dish.
While the grains are still warm, gently stir in the oil, vinegar, herbs and cheese. Adjust the seasonings with the fresh lemon juice and some freshly ground black pepper.
To serve: On a serving plate, make a ring of sliced tomatoes, slightly overlapping each other, leaving a space in the center of the plate. Mound the pilaf in the center of the plate and garnish with a sprig of basil.

Cook's Notes:
My friend Simona wrote an article about our local organic grain farmer, Kevin, and his grain CSA, which you can read here.
Pilafs I have known generally have more vegetables in them. I would encourage you to add vegetables of your choosing to this recipe, at will. As I will.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Greenhouse Tomatoes and a Kick in the Butt

Tomatoes are growing in my greenhouse.

Lots of tomatoes. More than you can see in this photo taken on 5/26/08.

And the other day I found these. Every plant has produced little green tomatoes. Oh the greenhouse gods are smiling, and so am I.

It seems that I'd better get back to cooking and posting. Someone actually emailed me today to ask if they could purchase my blog because obviously I'd lost interest and wasn't using it anymore. As if. It did wake me up enough to realize that I've got to get my sorry butt back in the kitchen if I'm going to keep this blog alive. Just so you know that I haven't been a total sloth, check out all the pretty flowers on the garden blog.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved